Are You Protected?

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What is an Antivirus? Do you need one? Whether you use your computer every day or once a month, it is still important to have an Antivirus software. This is a very important tool to have on a computer as it can protect your computer and warn you of malicious files that can be lingering inside your computer. Of course some Antivirus programs are free and others need to be paid. In case you are wondering why the paid ones make a difference, it is simply for automation. No one wants to run an Antivirus manually especially since they may forget to run it. 

As new viruses are being released on a daily basis, your Antivirus will need to run periodic updates to learn about these new types of threats. Many people may also say that Macs cannot get a virus, which is not entirely true. Given that Mac is a different type of operating system from Windows, it is more locked down in a sense where program files are much different than Windows. In other
words Mac limits you to what you can download from the Internet and a lot of their applications need to go through their APP store to make life easier for Apple users.

So the next time you hear the word Antivirus, just think to yourself, do I want to manually protect my computer or do I want my computer to protect me!  

Emails and Malicious Attachments

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Almost everyone in the world has an email account. Emailing has been so efficient and time-saving when contacting individuals. Since emailing has been so widespread, it is also easy for attackers to compromise an account and send out fake emails with malicious attachments. What does this mean exactly?

Well, lets say Joe has a friend named Matt, and from time to time they email eachother. Joe always opens up Matt's emails because he knows who he is and trusts him. Let's say that Matt's email account gets compromised and breached. All of the contacts in his address book will get a fake email that is sent from Matt. Given that Matt's contacts know who he is, will highly likely click on the email and if there is an attachment, you can bet that the attachment will be open or even downloaded. This attachment could pose as a PDF, Word Document, or even an Excel Spreadsheet, with a common name that makes you want to open it, and is most likely carrying a virus behind it. This virus could either spread through your computer making most or all programs unusable, or even lock down all document,s photos, music, videos, etc where you have to pay a Ransom to unlock. This malicious virus is called, "Ransomware."

So how can typical users protect themselves? The key to protecting yourself is to be keen and cautious when opening attachments in an email, even if it is from a trustworthy person. The chances are very slim that your Anti-virus will pick up the virus and quarantine it. In a home enviroment, the virus may not spread through your network unlike a corporate environment. In this case, since data is shared among several computers, the virus can spread throgu hall the computers making its way to the main computer, which is the Server.

WiFi

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WiFi has come such a long way and almost every device in the world uses this type of technology. It is very important for home owners who have WiFi broadcasting from their router, to make sure to have a password so that it is harder for someone to connect to it. By default some routers will use numbers, random letters, or sometimes both combinations. It is very important to change that password to a more complex one so that only you and your household will know by heart. 

Although WiFi networks can be more secure when a password is needed, you may also hide the name so that it does not show up on a list of available networks. This is called "Disable SSID Broadcast." This will make it harder for someone to try to break into your home network as you will remain undetected. Although there might be a way for hackers to try to bypass this technique, it is still a better way to protect yourselves than what most people would take account for.

CLOUD STORAGE

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What is this famous "Cloud" that everyone speaks of? Is it really up in the air? The Cloud has been around for many years and a lot of us have not realized that. Although the term may have been used several times a few years back, it has been around for as long as the Internet has existed. When people tend to refer to the Cloud, they refer to something that is not local but in another location. For example, by accessing websites such as: Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, etc, these are websites hosted on another computer somewhere in the world. Almost everything is hosted on a physical computer, its just a matter of where it is located. 

The Cloud also offers several types of data storage for end users to use. Common ones which you may have heard are: Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, iCloud. These services allow for end users to store their data offsite so that if their computer or device crashes, they know its safe in another backup location. Technology has helped us so much by making people feel safe by knowing their data can be retrieved if it becomes deleted locally. 

There is also that curious question that many people ask, "Is the Cloud safe to use?" As long as you don't store sensitive information such as social security numbers or tax information, then yes, you shouldn't worry about any information being compromised. It is also a good idea to keep your passwords strong for these types of accounts. 

PHISHING

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December 5, 2017

Have you ever been to a website trying to purchase an item that you can't find anywhere else and it somewhat looks suspicious? Does the writing look off or does it seem like they are asking for too much attention? If you have ever felt that way, chances are you stumbled onto a fake website. Websites like these will often try to replicate a legitimate website by having a log-in screen and eventually a spot to enter your credit card info if it poses as an e-commerce website. This term is called "phishing." The way this works is, an end user will go to a website and try to enter in all the information that it is asking for, and the person hosting the site will have a keylogger on the other end to record and reveal all the entered information, including the password right before their eyes. 

If you are unsure of a legitimate website, it is always good to research it prior to proceeding further. All webpages are supposed to have a valid certificate which proves that any private information entered by the end user such as a password, social security number, or a credit card number, will be encrypted and safe from any third party attacks. If you ever go to a website where it requires you to sign-in or enter any personal information, always look at the start of the website where it should say "HTTPS" as opposed to "HTTP". HTTPS means that the webpage is secure, however, if there is no certificate, then you may see "Not Secure". Most web browsers will alert you when going to a website without a certificate. Always keep an eye at that icon on the top of the address bar before stumbling upon a suspicious website. 

COOKIES

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Although Cookies can be very delicious, in the computer world, they leave traces behind for easier access for the end user. By referring to "easy," it can also be intercepted by a hacker with a third party program called a "keylogger". Not to scare you away, but when you go to a website and it asks you to save the password, your web browser is actually saving it in a password vault in the settings. It is very convenient for most people to store a saved password and to never have to type it in again, until it becomes a compromised issue. Storing it can mean, that anyone who has access to your computer can now login as you. 

Here are BEST PRACTICES to take when it comes down passwords in general.

It is always recommended to change your password every 30-60 days and to include the following requirements:    

  •    6-10 characters
  •    1 Uppercase Letter
  •    1 Number
  •    1 Special Symbol (i.e: !@#$%^&*)

It might be a challenge to remember the new password when you change it often however, by signing it at least once a day, you will have it memorized. It is never a good idea to keep passwords in written context such as post-its or emails. Your brain is the best place to keep that safe and handy because no one else will remember but you. 

If you are feel that a website may look legitimate but something is off with it, there is a good chance it is a "phishing" site and I do not mean fishing on a boat! Keyloggers are used very often on these "phishing" sites, and I will cover that in next Tuesday's tip.

WEB BROWSERS

  

  

Does your web browser take long to load web pages? What can you do to speed it up?

Often times, clearing the cache and browsing history on a web browser can optimize its performance. The quickest way to do this is to click and hold the following keys on your keyboard: "CTRL + SHIFT + DELETE." This popup window will ask you what you would like clear up and then the rest is up to you! If you choose to not delete your "cookies" for websites that have your saved passwords, you can do that, however the BEST practice is always to type in your password to as only YOU will have access to the account and it won't be in reach for someone else to access.

Although cookies can be very delicious, in the computer world, they are great for websites to remember you, but dangerous to the outside world! I will leave that here and pickup on the risks of cookies in next Tuesday's article, so standby!